Sunday, 20 August 2017

Theories of Surplus Value, Part I, Addenda - Part 20

Money becomes capital, as the money is used to buy means of production and labour-power. But, it is not this purchase that turns the money into capital. In fact, the money itself is not directly turned into capital. The money buys means of production and labour-power, and it is only in this form, via the production process, that the living labour itself is transformed into capital. That is this living labour as a materialisation of a given quantity of value, of social labour-time, becomes transformed by the labour process into a greater quantity of value. What was a fixed amount of value, becomes a variable quantity of value dependent upon the extent of labour performed.

It is only because this living labour itself thereby becomes capital, variable-capital, that a surplus value is produced, and that its monetary equivalent thereby expands.

“In the actual production process the living labour is transformed into capital through the fact that on the one hand it reproduces the wages —that is, the value of the variable capital —and on the other hand it creates surplus-value; and through this process of transformation the whole sum of money is transformed into capital, although the part of it which varies directly is only the part expended in wages.” (p 395)

Marx makes special note of this fact that although it is only the variable capital which produces the surplus value, it represents an expansion of the whole capital – c + v. This is important because it is the basis of the rate of profit, and for capitalist production, where prices of production rule, those prices are based on this expansion of the whole capital, i.e. the cost of production, c + v, plus the average profit, p.

“Moreover the transformation of v into v+x, and therefore of (c+v) into (c+v)+x, could only take place through the transformation of a part of the money into c, The one part can only be transformed into variable capital through the other part being transformed into constant capital.” (p 395)

This indeed is the specific difference between surplus value and profit that Smith and Ricardo did not understand, and which leads Ricardo into numerous problems in relation to understanding why the market value, or natural price of commodities is not equal to their price of production, as will be seen in the next volume.

Marx emphasises this point that it is only in the production process that the means of production and labour-power become capital, and, therefore, that the money which bought those commodities can be considered, in retrospect, to have been consumed as capital.

“Up to that point, the money—whether it exists in its own form or in the form of commodities (products) of a kind that can serve as means of production of new commodities —is only an sich capital.” (p 395)

The capital – be it money or commodities in the form of means of production and subsistence – which confronts the worker, is only capital in so far as it is used as capital, and engages in this production process, but it is nevertheless capital in essence. The capitalist only confronts the worker with the potential capital, because it is their intention to use it as capital, i.e. to engage in production for the purpose of creating a profit.

“They are in their essence capital because of the independent form in which they confront labour-power and labour-power confronts them—a relationship which conditions and ensures the exchange with labour-power and the subsequent process of the actual transformation of labour into capital. They have from the outset the specific social character in relation to the labourers which makes them into capital and gives them command over labour. They are therefore pre-conditions confronting labour as capital.” (p 396)

Labour is productive, therefore, only where it exchanges with capital.

Productive labour is therefore labour which reproduces for the labourer only the previously determined value of his labour-power, but as an activity creating value increases the value of capital; in other words, which confronts the labourer himself with the values it has created in the form of capital.” (p 397)

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